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Six tips for reducing cargo damage in the shipping process

(Photo credit: Shutterstockc)

Shipping is a vital part of any supply chain – but it’s also the process where damage is most likely to occur.

According to an online retail survey, 80% of consumers said they’d return a product if it arrived damaged or broken. With businesses typically responsible for shipping costs, returns can cut into profits in a major way.

In many cases, once the cargo is loaded, what happens next is out of your control. Sudden movements, bumps or twists and turns – all of these can result in serious harm to shipments if you don’t take proper precautions.

Nevertheless, with some preparation and foresight, it’s possible to reduce cargo damage during shipping.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Choose your shipping method wisely.

Some goods are fragile enough that you instantly eliminate certain shipping methods. A truck with an air-ride suspension or temperature control, for example, will provide smoother transit than others.

If you’re transporting valuable goods, it may be worth investing in a slower or more expensive shipping method. This selection will ensure less jostling and sudden movements.

Use the right packing materials.

Space within boxes is an opportunity for goods to slide around – and, in the worst-case scenario, collide with other items. Even if you don’t store a shipment in a box or crate, additional padding can ensure no damage will happen in the event of jostling, tipping or sudden movement.

Seal your containers well.

The proper sealing of a pallet can be as cheap and straightforward as high-quality wrapping and duct tape. Seals help your shipped goods avoid exposure to the weather, chemicals and odors.

Proper sealing is especially important if the goods you’re shipping are sensitive to changes in light or humidity. The right materials keep moisture out and protect against light damage.

(Photo credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Select the best pallets and containers.

Proper shipping procedures start at the warehouse. You can tell if a container will work for your shipment. Ensure you get the correct size and that it’s not damaged.

Wooden pallets are the most common, but you can also select plastic, paper, wood composite and metal. Misshapen pallets that are warped or appear structurally unsound can put your shipment at risk. Regular inspection of warehouse materials can help you keep everything in circulation up to standard.

Your pallet should be larger than the footprint of the item or items you’re shipping. If your goods hang over the edges, they will be at risk for damage – either from tipping or colliding with another object. A correctly-sized pallet won’t guarantee freedom from loss but can absorb some of the force of a collision.

Standard pallet sizing will reduce space between items. Less space prevents things from moving and striking one another.

Stage your pallets correctly.

When loading numerous boxes onto a single pallet, you’ll need to know how to properly stage it to reduce cargo damage.

Make your labeling clear.

The top surface of your packaging should be as flat as possible. Avoid stacking boxes in a pyramid shape and don’t put loose packages on top of a pallet.

Place the heaviest and least fragile items at the bottom. Giving your goods a strong foundation will reduce the chance of damage to light and fragile items. The bottom-heaviness of the packaging will also keep your pallet from sliding.

You should avoid double-stacking pallets. This rule is especially true if you stack the lightest items on top.

Video: FreightWaves

If an item is fragile or requires special handling, make a note on the item’s packaging and the bill of lading (BoL). This way, everyone involved in the shipping process knows your items need some extra care.

Print your labels on durable paper. You should also detail how much weight each item can withstand before being crushed. This practice will reduce the amount of handling your item receives when loaded, lessening the chance of damage.

The best ways to reduce shipping damage.

If you work in logistics, you know poor shipping can harm valuable cargo. However, you don’t have to calculate it into your budget. With the right practices, you can significantly reduce damage to products.

Start with the right packaging materials and transport methods. Select pallets and containers in tip-top shape. Seal off packages to prevent damage from the elements, such as rain and excessive heat. Plus, don’t forget to label all items clearly.

Once it’s out of your hands, you want everyone to know the best practices.

One Comment

  1. Raj Sharma

    Thank you for providing such great tips to reduce damage during the shipping process it is also seen that the products are also damaged when they are taken to a warehouse for storage that time also many products tend to get damaged and the warehouse owner or the exporter has to incur it, these tips will surely help us to reduce damage.

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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a technology journalist and writer interested in manufacturing and the supply chain. Her work has been published on Thomas Insights, Industrial Machinery Digest, American Machinist and